Why are mobile apps and games so addictive?

The addiction of mobile apps and games

It is difficult to understand how we, as children of The Digital Age, possibly functioned without the usage of powerful miniature computers in the palm of our hands.

The smart phone has weaved its way into the fabric of everyday life to such an extent we barely even acknowledge anymore just what an immense achievement of electronic majesty it truly is.

Rather than revelling in the plentiful array of possibilities that the significantly more powerful machines offer us, we dedicate hours to swiping and tapping at simple, mini 2D side scrolling video games more reminiscent of the archaic experiences found on the games consoles of old.

At the height of its short lived supremacy atop the App marketplaces, Flappy Bird, arguably the most notorious technological landmark of 2014 thus far, was earning its developer a mind blowing 50,000 dollars a day.

To contextualise just how incredible this is, not only was Flappy Bird free to download and play, it allegedly took its developer a mere day to create and was far from an original idea.

So profusely and intensely did the addictive support for this mobile phone app arise, that upon its infamous removal, reports emerged of smartphones containing pre-installed versions of the app selling for four figure sums.

The mobile app market has been flooded with effective Flappy Bird clones. More humorously a rip off involving Miley Cyrus, hammers and wrecking balls. You get the picture.

General intrigue, word of mouth and the fast-spreading memes that mock these apps across social media, mixed with the ability to instantly get these micro pieces of software is what draws people in.

It is intriguing why unoriginal, cumbersome and intrinsically repetitive apps such as Temple Run or Candy Crush, the ‘King’ of all brain-blending games, have become both mainstream successes and become financial goliaths.

After all, we are talking about very cheaply made and distributed mobile games which, technologically speaking, owe their design to a by-gone era of gaming.

Nonetheless, some of these apps are so devastatingly important to their audience that, in extreme situations, their captivated customers have reportedly neglected to pick up their children from school.

Personally I couldn’t care much for supposedly addictive mobile phone gaming. My only crucibles are social networking apps, and due to its increasing necessity, the gargantuan-valued WhatsApp.

Aside from these opportunities to administer my narcissistic requirement for social gratification, I never understood the allure in games such as Angry Birds, which have such a strong influence and ability to retain its users in coming back for more self-confidence crippling frustration and inevitable defeat.

It is evident to what extent the mobile phone app has made its mark and the mobile app market is predicted to become a 25 billion dollar market by 2015.

Yet, when one considers Facebook’s recent capture of WhatsApp for a staggering 19 billion dollars, it is evident to what extent the mobile phone app has made its mark and the mobile app market is predicted to become a 25 billion dollar market by 2015.

Estimated values of apps like Snapchat (4 billion dollars) just show what a ludicrous commodity these apps are.

Psychologists have weighed in on what makes mobile phone apps so addictive, and using Candy Crush as a case study, assessed why it is that so many individuals cannot put these games down after one menial play through.

Potential explanations for Candy Crush’s successful irresistibility have been theorised as their fundamental requirement to make you wait to play. Other games such as The Simpsons: Tapped Out work on the same basis.

To either accomplish something in the game or progress further, you must endure not being able to play for a certain time period.

If you lack such patience, you have the option to pay to skip these waiting periods. It essentially relies on the primeval human desire that we always want what we cannot have.

These games take the enjoyment away from us for short periods of time, and therefore, we crave to play even more.

On the same level it could perhaps be the sense of worthlessness which drives us on. After all, who wants to be defeated by a tiny cartoon bird, because they couldn’t navigate it between two static pipes?

As soon as you realise the difficulty of Flappy Bird, you understand that without the required perseverance and mental strive to get better at this game, it has beaten you.

With each setback, we vehemently push for success and fulfilment and until we achieve a respectable high score, we battle on lest this flappy bastard humiliate us.

It is essentially the same story with Candy Crush, reassuring us that we are performing to a ‘sweet’ or ‘delicious’ standard.

It taunts us and dangles the opportunity for sustained enjoyment in our faces before throwing it away and demanding either our money or patience.

Emotionally many people cannot cope with this status quo. Whether it is a near-impossible obstacle or agonising time delay, our minds cannot accept the notion of embarrassing, crushing defeat by the agonising autocratic dictatorship of sweeties.

Thus lies the crucial reason you can’t stop playing; there is no end and no matter what leaps and bounds you may make, you will never get to taste nor savour the flavours of full, unequivocal victory.

At least not until you’ve mindlessly invested in the solutions to overcome them, lost your mind in the despairing chasms of oblivion, emptied the contents of your bank account or eventually tossed your phone at a wall.

Frankly, I would recommend the latter as the only true means of escape.